Hard work up the ladder

September 10, 2021

Sports

By Glenn McDonald

Plenty of middle school kids want to grow up to be professional football players. Christian Parker, ’13, wanted to be an NFL coach.

Parker clearly does not mess around. After four years as a high school player — and four more with the Spiders — Parker made his trajectory switch to coaching with a remarkably fast ascent through the college ranks and then the pros. In February 2021, Parker was named defensive backs coach for the NFL’s Denver Broncos — at the age of 29.

Not bad for a guy who was a walk-on to the Richmond team in 2009. (He ended up a scholarship player.) Parker never saw a lot of action as a wide receiver, but as an aspiring tactician, he saw everything. Parker says his observations from the sideline dovetailed with his classroom experience, where he learned the Socratic method of presenting and arguing ideas.

“That’s the way that classes are run at Richmond,” he says. “I got used to speaking in front of people, formulating my own ideas, researching and defending them. I think that really prepared me for the coaching world.”

After earning his degree in political science, Parker traveled the nation by taking coaching jobs at a series of colleges. Latrell Scott, Richmond’s head football coach in 2010, mentored Parker at Virginia State and Norfolk State. Parker later moved on to positions at William & Mary, Notre Dame, and Texas A&M. In 2019, the Green Bay Packers hired him away from Texas. Two seasons later, the Broncos hired him away from the Packers.

Parker says that, as far as he knows, he’s the youngest person at his position level in the NFL. How does a guy find that kind of success?

“Well, I was always told to just keep your head where your feet are,” he says. “Do a great job, and success is going to find you.”